Do our politicians care about us?

Its pretty easy  to think about the world and be cynical. I know at my age I can certainly write a list of the people who have let me down.

But we all know selling despair, ruminating  on the people you wished hadn’t crossed your path and on what could have been gets us nowhere. On the other hand selling hope and focusing on a bright future by engaging and working with the people who share your vision keeps the fire burning in our bellies

I keep the fire burning in my belly by surrounding myself with exciting young people. Young people in schools, young farmers and young activists for social and environmental justice .

Last Friday night  I attended the NSW ACT Young Achiever Awards to support Young Farming Champions Anika Molesworth and Joshua Gilbert who were both finalists in the Environment and Sustainability Category   

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Anika Molesworth Winner of  the Environment and Sustainability Award

Millennials and the generation before them don’t exactly  get the best wrap and are often described as self absorbed .  Reading the bios of the finalists in all categories  certainly drew everyone’s attention to a group of young people and their support networks who are turning  the self absorbed label on its head.

Why theses young people do what they do  and how they do it is both fascinating and inspiring.   Last year’s winner in the opening speech said something that gave me food for serious reflection. This young lady is a very passionate member of AYCC who lobbied their peers to sign up and vote at the last election. She quoted some phenomenal numbers as a testimony to their success.

She expressed her motivation by saying  something along the lines of “politicians don’t care about young people and young people don’t care about politicians”. She went on to say part of the mission of AYCC is to show young people how important it is to care about politicians and what they do and don’t stand for and to vote for the one’s that align with their values

Do politicians care about young people.? Do they care about us?  I think they do but I can certainly understand why people in general wonder what they do stand for. How do we fix a system where it appears that too many of our politicians only care about the needs of big business and the powerful people and not enough about the quality of life and well being of everyday Australians?.

AYCC have got it right. It’s up to everyday Australians to hold our politicians accountable and that starts with making sure we have the right politicians in office and support fiercely the one’s who align with our values.

Congratulations to Anika Molesworth, a fierce campaigner for #youthinag and the viability  and resilience of Australian farmers and social and environmental justice

Anika’s acceptance speech – its easy to see why she is in demand as a keynote speaker 

 

 

Little vs Big Agriculture – are objective views lacking??

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Foodies I need help.

The Picture You in Agriculture team has paired up with the Intrepid Landcare tribe to create and deliver a program that builds on the success of the Art4agriculture initiatives – The Archibull Prize and the Young Farming Champions to help young people in schools get their heads around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and take local action

Schools participating in the Kreative Koalas program ( note landing page only at this stage)  will partner with Young Sustainability Ambassadors (Expressions of Interest open here  ) and investigate and reflect on seven of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

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We are finding ‘Responsible Production’ tricky. Coming from generations of primary producers that these days would be seen as Big Agriculture, my mission is to show the Little vs Big Agriculture story is not a binary argument – Good vs Bad or Romantic vs Reality or Sustainable vs Non-Sustainable or Non-Sustainable vs Sustainable but a continuum. I am looking for objective views and some great cases studies on both Little and Big Ag.

Landline is an obvious choice for content but no-one has yet identified OZ food bloggers/journalists of the likes of  Tom Philpot from Mother Jones, Nathanael Johnson from Grist  and  Helena Evich from Politico for me

Do we have food journalists that write level-headed assessments of Australian agricultural systems in plain English?  If the answer is yes – please share them with me

HT Richard Heath and Dr Heather Bray

Farmers for Climate Action – debunking the myth that farmers are climate change deniers

A well known group of highly respected Australian farmers have put their hands up to debunk the myth that Australian farmers are climate change deniers

In a previous blog found here I shared the research that showed 2 to 4 times as many farmers identify as human induced climate change sceptics compared to the community in general. In contrast to this lack of alignment with 97% of scientists and the community, up to 90% of surveyed farmers acknowledged using climate change adaption and mitigation strategies.

So the question is “why” do so many farmers prefer identify as sceptics? This article by Gabrielle Chan in The Guardian – Climate change is spoken of in hushed tones but it wasn’t always this way provides some excellent insights.

 

Climate Change is now well and truly out of the closet for Australian farmers. Our farmers have a lot to be proud of whilst we are Australia’s fourth highest source of emissions (after electricity, stationary energy and transport) we are the only sector to have decreased emissions in recent years.Farmers have acknowledged they are part of the problem and they are very determined to be part of the solution.

At the moment, the electricity sector contributes around 34% of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia each year. This is more than double the emissions from agriculture. Unlike changing our personal and food waste habits, which will require a gradual cultural shift, changing our energy sources and reducing our energy consumption primarily requires political commitment.

We already have the technology and are seeing it adopted on a large scale around the world.Emissions reductions from the electricity sector could deliver the rapid and significant cuts that we need as soon as possible.

Excitingly our farmers are gaining public support and now actively lobbying our politicians to get on the clean energy train as this recent example shows

This article is a reprint from Australian Geographic by Gemma Hilton on Sept 27th 2016

Farmers asked to share their climate change experience

IF THERE’S ANY group of Australians who are likely to see and fully appreciate the impacts of climate change first-hand, it’s our farmers, who rely on the patterns and moods of the weather to make a living.

Farmers like Peter Holding, who is a third-generation mixed-operation farmer (wheat, canola, wool and lamb) from southern NSW. Peter’s family has been farming their land on the south-west slopes of Harden since 1929. He says he first really started to be impacted by the changing climate with the big, late-season frost event of 1998, followed by the unprecedented drought period of the first decade of the 2000s.

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Today, Peter is vocal about the need to do something about climate change. He is also a member of the newly formed Farmers For Climate Action, which is asking farmers around Australia to share their experiences of, and attitudes towards, climate change in a nation-wide survey. This is the first Australia-wide survey of its kind and was launched last week at a large, annual NSW agribusiness event called Henty Field Days.

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Volunteers from Farmers for Climate Action prepare to survey farmers at Henty Field Days, NSW. (Source: Farmers for Climate Action)

Peter says farmers are at the “frontline” of climate change, and he thinks attitudes among farmers are changing – however the survey, which has already received hundreds of entries, will paint a clearer picture.

Cattle farmer and businesswoman Lucinda Corrigan, who has already completed the survey, is now encouraging other farmers to do the same.

“We already know agriculture is Australia’s most climate-exposed industry, but precise impacts vary between regions and sectors. For me, in southern NSW, we’re seeing increasing temperatures and our rainfall patterns significantly alter, and this makes short and long-term planning for our agribusiness more challenging,” she says.

“It’s critical that as many farmers as possible get involved in this conversation because the decisions made today and tomorrow will affect us long into the future. We want to make sure we can keep farming into not just the next season, but for generations to come.”

Farmers For Climate Action will use the survey results to inform their practices and areas of focus. Farmers who complete the five-minute survey will also go in the draw to win a solar system and battery storage worth $15,000.

The survey has already has 400 responses from farmers – help Farmers for Climate Action reach 1000 responses farmers can undertake the survey here. 

 

The time for mutual collaboration and respect is now – are our farmer organisations ready?

Today in The Land newspaper journalist Alex Druce asks the question is Ag’s image in danger

As my readers are aware from numerous posts I have written this year I believe so and I recently also asked who will bear the moral responsibility for this

Farmers currently sit at No 8 in the most trusted profession list. This is because we are trusted to supply to supply  Australian families with safe, affordable and nutritious food. Despite the obviously ill informed assurance of NSW Farmers natural resource committee chairman the 2016 Archibull Prize entry and exit survey results show it is a very different matter when it comes to animal welfare, the environment and water use. See footnote. The graph below also shows The Archibull Prize’s considerable ability to improve the image and perceptions of farmers in these three key areas   Secondary students attitudes to farming A campaign that will see our best practice farmers image tarnished by the actions of the minority will make it very difficult for The Archibull Prize’s to make those considerable gains.  Whilst I no longer farm my family still do and I put considerable personal funds into this program and I will not hesitate to ask those responsible for putting agriculture’s image at risk to be accountable

Josh Gilbert former chair of NSW Farmers Association Young Farming Council recently resigned his position as a result of personal threats from a senior non-staff member in NSW Farmers Association who threatened personal attacks if he spoke out against the NSW Native Vegetation Act proposed reforms. “I was told that if I was to come and speak out against (the reform), the people who already attack me would increase in number and increase (their efforts), including people in NSW Farmers. My interpretation was that it was a threat,” he said. Source 

Josh is hopeful that partnerships between farmers, environmental groups, Indigenous Australians and consumers with a conscience can find a way through. I hope and pray our farmer organisations see the wisdom of this before it is too late

“Achieving sustainable land use for profitability and sustainability in the short and long term requires collaboration between farmers, environmental groups, Indigenous Australians and consumers with a conscience. Coming together through a shared love and appreciation of the value of land, the food and fibre it produces and our environment, we stand to create partnerships for the true long term prosperity of our nation. We can build on the 40,000 years of Traditional Indigenous Knowledge and mutual respect for our delicate landscape to form fair, equitable and long term policy, not one which sacrifices future prosperity for short term ‘gains’”……..

Josh asks

Are we ready to truly partner and ensure the equality of agricultural reporting for long-term equity, justice, fairness and profitability? I believe the time for mutual collaboration and respect is now.

Below is Josh Gilbert’s recent opinion piece that has attracted considerable attention in the main stream media.

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Josh Gilbert 

Farmers have a natural affinity with their land. The farm is the home of their family’s dreams and aspirations; the page upon which they write their stories of passion and love; their life; their livelihood; their heart.

From outside the farm gate the view is different. Consumers place large amounts of trust in the farmer to produce what they need and when they need it. However, as societal views shift around the governance and sustainability of corporations, so too does the interest in food production and animal welfare. Farmers are increasingly held accountable for their actions and asked not only to provide, but also to protect and care for the environment and animals that support the production of food.

Corporations and businesses paved the way for triple bottom line accounting practices, considering social, economic and environmental factors. Now, agricultural corporations and family farmers find themselves at a crossroads, pondering what practical accounting and social metrics should be developed specifically for the agricultural industries. This discussion is brought further to life over the proposed changes to the Native Vegetation Act in NSW, policy which intends to provide farmers with less red tape by allowing self-assessment regarding the flora and fauna on their property. Without full appreciation of the value of native vegetation, this policy risks not only the repetition of past errors, but also of trading long term profitability for short-sighted practices.

This controversial policy highlights the need for all to reconsider the interaction between the three areas of triple bottom line reporting – not only finance, social and environmental, but also the corporate social responsibility to apply them in the unique field of farming.

Times are changing and in this new world our society needs to shift its thoughts on this matter. Do we as society value pursuit of money over the longevity of social cohesion, the natural environment and our accountability to the public?

Kinship for the land is not just felt by farmers, but also by my Indigenous brothers and sisters and the broader environmental movement. With the desire to create fair, just and equitable policy regarding the natural environment, it is negligent that these voices have been hushed and ignored, often trumped in the public and political discussion by large farming organisations.

Other changes taking place are the partnerships that are being built where once there was nervousness and mistrust. Recent disputes over mining activity have seen farmers and environmental groups stand hand in hand, united in their desire to protect the land. This relationship though, is at risk as legitimate concerns from the environmental movement regarding native vegetation fall on deaf ears within farmer associations. Comparable policies within Australia have seen over 300,000 hectares of native vegetation ripped from the landscape in Queensland, despite industry best practice. Australia has also become number three for the worst land clearing rates amongst developed nations. And still, some industries continue to lobby for self-regulation in order to provide the opportunity for them to destroy our native landscapes.

We are at risk of losing prominent native vegetation in Australia. This also increases the risk of negative public perceptions increasing towards farmers. Recent experience demonstrates to us the cost of these negative perceptions. The live export debate questioned every farmer’s right to farm, and cost beef producers dearly in the short and long term, forcing some farmers to leave the industry. Similarly, the proposed ‘native vegetation policy’ lacks foresight and vision and further risks the brand of “Australian agriculture” and the livelihoods of our farming families and rural communities. The drive for farmers to increase their land value and productivity seems to focus only on a single ‘bottom line’ factor, and negates any public accountability and social and environmental responsibility farmer otherwise aspire to achieve.

There is hope though.

Achieving sustainable land use for profitability and sustainability in the short and long term requires collaboration between farmers, environmental groups, Indigenous Australians and consumers with a conscience. Coming together through a shared love and appreciation of the value of land, the food and fibre it produces and our environment, we stand to create partnerships for the true long term prosperity of our nation. We can build on the 40,000 years of Traditional Indigenous Knowledge and mutual respect for our delicate landscape to form fair, equitable and long term policy, not one which sacrifices future prosperity for short term ‘gains’.

We each have a personal responsibility for not only our future, but also for the future of our descendants. Each day, we have the ability to encourage change, create hope and create equality. Our views on the environment, agriculture and our way of life should be treated no differently.

The challenge for us all is to lift our gaze beyond our current horizon. Money should not be the sole imperative. We need to focus on the long- term outlook and understand where our interests and connection to the broader society should lie. We must equally value the three pillars of triple bottom line accounting, while creating agricultural metrics showing mutual respect for the views of farmers, consumers and the environment.

Are we ready to truly partner and ensure the equality of agricultural reporting for long-term equity, justice, fairness and profitability? I believe the time for mutual collaboration and respect is now.

Footnote

Flabbergasted that some farmers organisations continue to self assess consumer attitudes. After all this is not the first time consumer attitudes to farming have been surveyed. The Archibull Prize program 2015 survey reinforces Parberry and Wilkinson’s findings on Victorian’s attitudes to farming from 2013. Dairy Australia also find similar results in the survey they conduct

 

Don’t expect to see positive change if you surround yourself with negativity

As soon as you pass through the magnificent avenue of trees at Gundowringa at Crookwell you realise you have arrived at a farm steeped in heritage

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Charlie Prell inspired by the visionaries who came before him 

On your left is the 160-year-old  woolshed that in its heyday accommodated 16,000 sheep and the stone shearer’s quarters built in 1916

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Today it sleeps up to 18 to supplement the farm’s income through fly fishing and farmstay opportunities

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On your right is a stone cottage of the same era and to the right of the stone cottage stands the pavilion that once overlooked the cricket oval

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But the pièce de résistance is the homestead. Everything else is a reminder of when the country rode on the sheep’s back. The homestead underpins why the family is so committed to making farming work for them and the generations to come in the 21st Century

Gundowringa Homestead was built by Chas E Prell in 1905 out of basalt and granite and roof tiles that were used as ballast on ships doing the round trip from UK to Australia 

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Chas E Prell – the first of 5 generations of the Prell family on Gundowringa

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The gardens were laid out while the house was being built. There are some very impressive large trees, some now over 100 years old. Including what is believed to be the oldest and largest Linden grown in this country. Other breathtaking species include an evergreen example of the liquid amber family the Liquidamber festerii

It was the rose garden and the horizontal elm, with the flattened canopy designed to allow you to walk under that caught my eye.

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The house has maid’s quarters and when first built visitors were greeted at the door by a butler. At the height of the wool boom the property supported thirty jobs

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The homestead was adapted to use as farmstay accommodation in 2000 by Charlie’s parents Jeff and Jess Prell until Jess death in 2008

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Jeff Prell – a man with every right to be proud of what his family has achieved and the perfect host to share his family heritage past

Jeff has found love again and married local artist Margaret Shepherd whose studio and artworks bring a new vibrancy to the homestead

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The current generation have a lot to inspire them and inspired they are. Inspired to adapt and move with the times. Inspired to respect the landscape and work in partnership with it

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Jeff and Charlie Prell marching into the future 

Like his great grandfather and his namesake Charlie Prell knows that pioneers who advocate and help drive change are often initially perceived as being radical in the extreme particularly by people entrenched in the past

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Charlie Prell – a bright future relies on innovation and making the most of the ssets you have 

What we often forget is what traditionally sets people like Charlie and his great grandfather apart is their commitment to the greater good. Charlie Prell has leased part of Gundowringa to a company who will install a wind farm. He is also helping farmers across Australia find alternate fresh income streams from renewable energy technology.

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The site of the future Gundowringa Windfarm

Charlie is using part of his new stream of passive income to reinvigorate and drought proof the farm and embrace the opportunities that the combination of the diverse income streams of renewable energy, tourism and food and fibre production offer to sustaining generations of Prell family members as long as they wish to remain there.

Nobody will ever be able to say that Charlie Prell is a victim of the disconnect between reality of the vargaries of farming and the idealism of the view that food and fibre production alone will keep Australian farming families in business for the long haul in the 21st Century

Today it’s hard to believe that the now acknowledged visionary Chas E Prell the man who epitomised the “producing more with less’ ethos and pioneered pasture improvement utilising superphosphate fertiliser was in his time considered a maverick who didn’t follow convention. Its a reminder that its important not to forget the past. What’s even more important is to learn from it.

Change is the law of life

I recently heard some-one say the jobs available in ten years’ time to young people currently in primary school wont have been heard of today. My greatest hope is that agriculture becomes a visionary in learning from its past and embracing the opportunities a partnership between farmers and nature offers

 

 

 

 

With a little bit of help from Beyonce we can save the waterways

There is no denying that agriculture can have a significant and detrimental impact on the health of the Great Barrier Reef, This is a big concern for governments, landcare groups, farmers, and the public alike. More and more Queensland farmers are trying to change that and farmers whose waterways flow into the Great Barrier Reef Catchment are keen to showcase how their industries are meeting their responsibility to farm in a way that protects the Great Barrier Reef.

Tambo SHS

Today’s post is a Hats off to the students at Tambo State High School who participated in The 2015 Archibull Prize. It was clear that the health of the reef is a the forefront of these young people’s minds and they have done a great job of using music to show how farmers and they, as the engineers of the future, are protecting waterways

Fencing in the beauty and fencing out future problems   

Tambo State High School

Sadly the distance to Tambo means art judge Wendy Taylor wont be able to meet these amazing students in person.  Which is a real shame as they sure are a talented lot. Check out their blog here

The farmers’ case for leaving coal and coalseam gas in the ground

These days when some-one asks me to speak at, or judge something they usually request a photo and a bio

The photo part is easy but the bio gets more and more difficult. Yes I can always tailor it for the audience I am presenting to or will be meeting but I don’t even know what to call myself any more.

At the moment as I collaborate with a diverse group of people who are helping to send Young Farming Champion’s Josh Gilbert and Anika Molesworth to Paris for COP21, I am finding myself being referred to as a global campaigner for equity for farmers as we lobby the Australian government for action on climate change.

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Australian Young Farmer of the Year Anika Molesworth

What does being a campaigner for equity for farmers mean for me?

It means creating awareness and getting government to ‘embrace the future’ by recognising agriculture does so much more that produce food and fibre.  It creates jobs, grows wealth and vibrant, healthy and resilient rural and regional communities. This is the bright future all Australians want and deserve

It means getting our government to understand climate change is happening and it is a real threat to reliable access to safe, affordable and healthy food not only in 20 years’ time but now.

It means I fully support these comments that agriculture can play a big role in helping deliver the solution

Australia’s food production sector can make a substantial contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving our communities, environment and economy to a more sustainable basis.  ….

Farming systems that produce their own renewable energy, and are based on sustainable agricultural practices that increase carbon storage in vegetation and soils, reduce the need for expensive nitrogen-based fertilizer, reduce soil degradation, save water, and protect our natural resource base will have win-win impacts – helping reduce the prospects of climate change to which we cannot adapt, as well as increasing the reliability, profitability and quality of our food supply.

Feeding a Hungry Nation: Climate change, Food and Farming in Australia 2015 by Professor Lesley Hughes, Dr. Martin Rice, Professor Will Steffen

Farmers are perfectly placed to contribute to the solutions to Climate Change. Not only are they on the frontline of Climate Change already, they are innovative, resourceful and determined.

Our Australian farmers are part of a global farming community. They know they have to learn from each other’s successes and failures in order to help us all move forward. Farmers have always been focused on feeding and clothing us, and now they also in a position to POWER us as well using renewable energy technologies.

Its means that I am dedicating every spare minute I have to ensure our farmers are provided with the knowledge, the skills, the support and incentives necessary to help them feed and clothe and power us profitably

With a 2am start this morning catching up on all the things I don’t know that I need to know to be effective at what I do – bloody hell yes did I relate to this story Coal Seam Gas and Country Women #gogirlfriends

Women are very passionate and if you threaten our homes, families and livelihoods we swing into action. Clean water, air and soil are a right for every man woman and child in this beautiful country. We have a right to know how and under what conditions our food and fibre are grown. We owe that to ourselves and our children and grandchildren. The methane is still in the coal seams under the ground so the fight is not over. Sustainable energy is the way of the future. “You can’t eat coal and you can’t drink gas”. Australian agriculture has a huge job ahead feeding the world with only 6% prime agricultural land. If our precious agricultural lands are left unmined, future generations of Australian farmers will still be feeding the world in the centuries to come.

Watch some of these magnificent women here

Where does this leave all the wonderful people who work in the coal industry?

As some-one who has friends with friends who work in the coal industry its is also very important to me that there will be great jobs in clean energy technologies to keep them in work. Here is a great story about Mark Wiggins who after 20 years working in coal and hydro is a coal miner who has successfully made that transition

A career in power generation moves from coal to wind

With the mining boom now at an end, Australia is grappling with a sharp jobs contraction in the coal, gas and resources sectors. As thousands of workers contemplate their futures, many of those in regional Australia will increasingly look to jobs in clean energy technologies to keep them in work.

Wind farms are a logical next step for workers experienced in fossil fuel power generation and that neatly describes the trajectory of AWA member, Mark Wiggins. After 20 years working in coal and hydro, Mark is now Operations Manager at Boco Rock Wind Farm, standing on the Monaro plains, 150 km south of Canberra